The symptoms of dry eyes are one of the most common complaints that GP’s and opticians get to hear about. The symptoms of dry eyes are varied but most people usually experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Dryness, redness, grittiness, blurred vision and stinging sensation
- Light sensitivity and burning sensation
- Excess watering and foreign body sensation
- Contact lens intolerance
All these dry eye symptoms are collectively termed as a concern called Dry Eye Syndrome. Dry Eye Syndrome, also referred to as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is often caused by insufficient and/or poor quality of tears. The resulting stinging, itching and sensitive eyes can not only lead to eye damage but also impacts upon your quality of life. Dry Eye Syndrome is very common especially as we get older and it is theorised that this may be the result of greater usage of computers and an increase in vision-corrective surgery including cataract surgery.
Dry eye symptoms can lead to damage to the cornea, the eye’s outermost clear layer. The cornea contains no blood vessels to nourish or protect it against infection and it relies on nourishment from the tears we produce and from the fluid that fills the chamber behind it. The symptoms of dry eyes can also damage the conjunctiva, the lubricating layer that lines the eyeball and the inner surfaces of the lids.
Many people suffer from dry eyes occasionally, however in the case of Dry Eye Syndrome, the symptoms of dry eyes are ongoing and can lead to the progressive worsening of the symptoms. A vicious cycle exists in the case of Dry Eye Syndrome because poor tear production leads to inflammation and damage to the eye structures and this inflammation leads to even lesser tear production and more inflammation.
Who is at risk of Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry Eye Syndrome is very common in people aged over 40 and is greater in women than men. There are some disorders where dry eye symptoms are present such as Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and acne rosacea.
Some types of eye surgery can disrupt the nerve circuitry that controls blinking and tear production leading to dry eyes.
Contact lens wearers often complain of dry eye symptoms. It is not that contact lenses cause dryness, however someone who is borderline with dry eye symptoms will usually experience discomfort because the eyes cannot support the contact lens comfortably. Contact lenses rely on adequate production of tears and if you are suffering from borderline dry eye symptoms, then often you cannot wear contact lenses for more than a few hours before the discomfort arises.
By far the most common reason for dry eye symptoms in women is the menopause. It is estimated that nearly 60% of perimenopausal and menopausal women suffer from dry eye symptoms and that only a small percentage of these realise that menopause is to blame. Lower hormone levels are believed to affect the eye structures and the composition of the tears you produce. Although teary eyes are anything but dry, excess tears are often a sign that your eyes are desperately trying to make up for the lack of moisture.
How to alleviate dry eye symptoms
Diet: Increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids by eating oily fish at least twice a week. Omega 3 fats from oily fish also contain antioxidants which protect the eyes. If you do not like fish then consider using a quality omega 3 fish oil supplements. Omega 3’s work to reduce tear film evaporation providing comfort for longer periods of time.
Environment: Dry air, wind and pollutants from the environment can make matters worse if you already suffer from dry eye symptoms. You can, to a degree, take steps to control these environmental triggers have on your dry eyes, for example, wearing sunglasses on windy days will block the wind from drying your eyes out. If your home is dry due to central heating, using a humidifier may be of benefit.
Blink: Blink regularly. Blinking helps lubricate your eyes. Whilst we take blinking for granted, there are many times when we watch television or are reading a book that we get so enthralled and forget to blink.
Eye Drops For Dry Eyes: There are many over the counter eye drops available to help alleviate dry eye symptoms. Many of them provide relief for a couple of hours and need to be used several times a day. The eye drops for dry eyes that I prefer, Hycosan Extra, provide relief for the most part of the day when used three times daily.
Treatment of dry eye symptoms
There are several forms of treatment for dry eyes though primarily lubricating eye drops are the usually recommended such as hypromellose eye drops. Severe cases of dry eyes may need a combination of lubricating eye drops and some sort of a procedure such as punctal occlusion ensuring that the tears produced do not drain into the nasal cavity.
Most people are asked to increase their omega 3 or 7 intakes which does provide some relief. What most of us do not realise is that tear fluid contains numerous compounds that protect the eye. The cornea, the clear layer that covers the lens, pupil and iris, is devoid of any blood vessels and relies solely on tears for its nourishment. Tear fluid contains glucose for its nourishment and several antioxidants including glutathione, vitamin C and some amino acids to protect the eyes. Additionally, tear fluid contains antimicrobial compounds that prevent bacteria from thriving. It becomes clear that using moisturising eye drops will not nourish the eye and merely provide temporary relief. The only way to do is to increase your body’s own tear production from the inside out.
How Maqui Berry can help tear production
Maqui berry plants grow in the rainforest region of Chile and Argentina. The small berries from these plants have been used in these regions for decades to treat diarrhoea and inflammation. Maqui berries also contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins.
Japanese scientists isolated the chemicals within the Maqui berries and found unique compounds called delphinidins. These delphinidins were shown to inhibit damage to the delicate eye tissues and additionally protect the eye tissues against free radical damage. These two effects appear to enhance the lacrimal glands ability to restore tear production even though we do not fully understand the mechanism.
In a small human study involving 13 volunteers with moderate dry eye symptoms, a 60 mg dose of Maqui Berry Extract was found to enhance tear production by almost 45% from the baseline at the 60 day period. These same patients also completed a quality of life score sheet and results showed a 72% improvement.
To summarise, Maqui Berry Extract helps boost tear fluid secretion and enhances the actual function of the tear film. A supplement which contains 60 mg Maqui Berry Extract, the strength used in the study, is the aptly named Tear Support with MaquiBright capsules with a recommended dose of one capsule in the morning. This natural, oral supplement can help to soothe your eyes from the inside out by stimulating tear production.